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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Aswang and Manananggal of the Philippines

Image from www.manananggal.com

This coming Saturday is Halloween Day here in Northern California. To celebrate Halloween Day, I thought that the following story from Dave DeWall (I have his permission to post this story in this blog) is worthy of publication and very timely.

I know that most of us here in US do not believe in witches. But in the Philippines (this is true story according to the author) witches, nono's, manananggals, giant capri's, and ghosts are part of life and folklore specially in rural areas and in the provinces. Personally, if I am in the Philippines, I tend to believe it, but when I am here in Northern California, I am not a believer. However during Halloween, the subject of witches becomes a topic of interest to me.

The Witches and Manananggal of Guimaras Island, Iloilo-by Dave DeWall
Source: www.rooster4am.com October 21 and 22, 2009

“My wife’s younger sister Emily, was a beautiful baby. Cute sharp nose and just one of those infants people would gush over and comment on how maganda (beautiful) she was. She was the favorite of her parents and adored by her older brothers and sisters. When Emily was about a year old, she became extremely ill. Wouldn’t drink her milk and didn’t want to eat. What she did eat was immediately vomited. She suffered diarrhea and dehydration, and couldn’t sleep at night.
Melinda’s Tatay (Father) and Nanay (Mother) bundled up the sick little one and took her to the doctor. The doctor examined her, and prescribed some medicine. Emily got a little better the next day, but then she became quite ill again, and so another trip back to the doctor. Quite expensive for Melinda’s Father and Mother who struggled to make ends meet and support a family of eleven. The doctor prescribed more medicine, again Emily got a little better for a couple of days. Then she worsened again. More trips to the doctor with the same results as before. The same pattern persisted, get a little better, than sick again. Tatay and Nanay were becoming increasingly worried and extremely distraught; the doctor’s visits had drained what few pesos they had before Emily became sick, and now all their money was gone. What could they do to save their little infant Emily?

Only one thing to do, Tatay and Nanay decided they would have to sell the family carabao (water buffalo, the ultimate work animal on farms in the Philippines, not caribou as the carabao is often mistakenly referred to by foreigners like myself --check this link out by my friend Mindanao Bob from “Live in the Philippines” for a great explanation of what a carabao is and for a photo: http://liveinthephilippines.com/content/2007/10/are-there-caribou-in-the-philippines/). They had to raise the cash to take Emily to the hospital and have extensive tests run on her. This was an act of utter desperation; the caribou plowed the rice fields for the family farm. Without the carabao there would be no rice fields plowed and no rice next season: No rice to sell. No rice to eat. The decision was final; the next morning Melinda’s Mother and Father would bring the carabao into San Miguel to be sold.

Darkness then falls in the heart of the jungle as the giant lizards’ cries of “tukkku …tukkku..tukkku” reverberate throughout. Giant pythons hang menacingly on the trees. An evening where Melinda and her family, distraught with worry over baby Emily, huddle inside their candle lit nipa hut shorn of any modern conveniences such as electricity and running water. No telephone. No television. The only contact with the outside world was a tiny transistor radio. Emily was especially ill that evening, vomiting and crying; reinforcing Tatay’s and Nanay’s decision to sell the carabao and bring their beloved infant daughter to the hospital. Nanay held the little baby in her arms to try and comfort her and rock her to sleep. The hour is around midnight.

Suddenly the family heard a loud commotion outside! A cat emitting strange high-pitched screams was outside the front of the nipa hut. Melinda peered out the window and saw its eyes as they glowed fiery red! Tatay cracked open the front door, and the demon cat jumped inside the front entrance of the nipa hut, and according to my wife Melinda who witnessed it, FLEW across the room. It was common knowledge in the Philippines that a witch or Manananggal had the ability to inhabit an animal’s body and possess it. Melinda’s father quickly grabbed his bolo (machete) and ran towards the flying cat screaming: “You are NOT going to eat my child, you Son of a b----!” The cat literally flew out the front door, and my father-in-law shouted at all the children to gather all their old slippers (rubber flip-flops) and put them in the front yard. The multitude of old flip flops were piled up and put in a semi-circle, and Melinda’s father set fire to them.

As Melinda and her family huddled in the nipa hut, she could hear piercing screams and laughter coming from just beyond the burning mountain of rubber: it was the witch tormenting them, still in the cat’s form! Thick black smoke poured from the mound of melting flip flops, and the terrorized family huddled inside with Tatay in the doorway, bolo in his upraised right hand. The evil laughter continued from right beyond the flames tauting them.

And Blood Shall Spill!

Yesterday’s blog concluded with Melinda and her family being taunted by the Manananggal, a witch that took the form of a cat. As Melinda’s father continued to stand at his post at the front door, armed with his bolo, Melinda relates that she could still hear the witch cat laughing and screaming at them, but the burning pile of rubber flip flops was keeping the creature at bay. A half hour passed and finally the jungle fell silent; the witch was gone for the moment, and even the cry of the lizards halted.

Morning finally arrived, and though shaken by the previous evening’s horrible events, Melinda’s Mother and Father prepared the carabao for the long journey out of the jungle to San Miguel; Emily’s condition was worsening, and the carabao had to be sold to raise the funds necessary to admit the little infant to the hospital. Hospital services had to be paid for when those services were completed.

Tatay and Nanay, Melinda and the family reach the outskirts of San Miguel, and Nanay (Melinda’s Mother) runs into her sister Feliciana, a local healer. They had not seen each other for months. “Have you heard there is a new Manananggal in town looking for a baby so she can eat the infant’s liver?” asks Tita (Aunt Feliciana.) Tatay and Nanay froze! That was the witch that visited their house last night! Manananggal take on the form of an attractive woman during the day, and are known to seek out the most beautiful of babies. The witch was after little Emily!

With a quivering voice, Melinda’s Mother told her sister of the visit last night. Tita grabbed her sister’s arm, and told her they had to get Emily to the local healer that had far greater powers than Tita, the healer, had. They would need an extremely powerful healer to deal with the wretched Manananggal!

Tatay and Nanay, and Melinda and family along with Tita Feliciana who needed to make the necessary introductions since this particular healer was know throughout the region as “the healer of all healers”. One could not expect to just walk through his door without waiting for hours as he had a multitude of people that sought his services every day; but this was a dire situation. Immediate action was needed. Tita Feliciana intervened.

The healer listened to the story of the previous night’s harrowing event. His face remained stoic. Did not nod in agreement or disagreement with anything said. Asked no questions. He knew how to deal with this menace. The Healer instructed Melinda’s Mother and Father to go out and purchase a black chicken and then come back with it and Baby Emily.

Fortunately it was early Sunday morning, the busiest market day in San Miguel. It did not take long for Tatay and Nanay to purchase a black chicken. They rushed back to The Healer with the ailing Emily, Melinda and the rest of the family in tow. As witnessed by Melinda, The Healer chopped off the head of the black bird with one swift blow of the bolo. He poured the blood of the chicken out into a vessel, and made the sign of the cross on Emily’s forehead, legs, arms, and stomach. Then he took some ginger and rubbed that on the infant Emily. The Healer instructed Tatay and Nanay to go straight home, but be sure to leave the candles lit the whole evening.

Melinda’s family made the long journey back home to the jungle. Nanay fed Emily some milk. She hungrily drank all of it. Did not vomit any of it. Nanay fed her some rice porridge. Again Emily ate it all, and again, did not get sick. The house was lit with every candle available in every room. Nightfall came again. Emily went to sleep quickly, still covered with the dried chicken blood; it was the first time in almost a month that she slept so peacefully. The little one did not get ill the whole day since she left The Healer that morning. Tatay sat near the front door the whole evening with his bolo nearby, but the night slipped away without any event.

Morning came, and Emily again drank all her milk and ate her porridge. Nothing happened, she was completely healed. The chicken’s blood was then washed off of her, and Nanay patted her dry, and held her in her arms, grateful for what The Healer had done. Oh, and the carabao? It was still there. Didn’t need to sell it now. The witch? Don’t know what happened to her, but a new one has taken her place here in San Miguel now. She is a young one in the second year of high school, and it is said she is looking for a beautiful young child to devour that child’s liver. Again, The Sainted Patient Wife was eyewitness to this account, and swears it is true. Who am I to say? Many forces of darkness battle against the good every day in this world. I am but a stranger in a strange land”. Thank you Dave for your story!

Here is a short video from a movie trailer about aswang in the Philippines to complement the story above.

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